Theresa May is sounding more and more like a Marxist. In her speech at Davos today at the World Economic Forum the Prime Minister warned that there might be dangers ahead if further inequality leads to a backlash of resistance against globalisation.
Last week the Conservative MP Michael Gove announced that “it is not a free market it is a rigged market”. Today we have, from Theresa May, more admission of the many dangers for the people of a system stacked in favour of a narrow socio-economic group. The speech amounted to a plea to corporate bosses to ‘be nice’ or else to risk ‘losing the consensus’ that keeps the establishment in place.
Theresa May sounds like she sees the writing on the wall. The system has gone too far and it may now be showing all too clearly that it carries the seeds of its own destruction in the form of the creation of widespread inequality, abject poverty, social division, rampant corruption, militarism and general dissatisfaction and desperation.
The ideology that was used to ‘sell’ market capitalism to us, the neoliberal theorising, has turned out to be utterly false. What we have today, as Michael Gove so aptly puts it, is not a free or competitive market, but a ‘rigged market’, one that acts in the interests of the few and not the many.
Outcomes are not equal and equitable or optimal in any way, as neoliberalism suggests, nor are they market determined in any impersonal, resource-determined way. They are determined by powerful players acting in their own best interests often against the interests of the vast majority of the rest of us, and sold to us with self-serving lies.
We have been duped by our universities, by the government, by corporate interests. As Marx puts it ‘religion is the opium of the people’. Our religion has the name of ‘neoliberalism’. So subtly have we been indoctrinated that many of us are not even aware of being its disciples.
Neoliberalism tells us that we live in a world of market-driven competitive forces, and that it is best for governments to stay out of market intervention in order to allow the forces of perfect competition to unfold as they will, for it is to the benefit of us all to let them do so. Government should attempt neither to pick winners nor to support losers. Government cannot possibly do better than the market according to the neoliberal creed.
This is so far from the truth it is frankly laughable. Yet many of us continue to believe it. Theresa May, however, it would appear, has seen the writing on the wall. May’s speech in Davos is essentially saying ‘be nice or there will be a revolt against the system’. It is like asking feudal lords for more crumbs from the King’s table. Be a little nicer to the peasants or they will rise up against you. May warns that the system protects itself when the compliant gain some share of the rewards. It is important not to go too far, not to be too greedy, not to take too much.
May advocates not justice for all, but social engineering by the super rich. May warns that the super rich may already have gone too far. I tend to agree. The logical outcome of the creed of neoliberalism in the global economy is to sow the seeds of revolution. I would seek to avoid that logical outcome by campaigning for real change, for enlightenment, for real justice and for a better society for all.
Social injustice hurts us all. It makes us sick and insecure (The Spirit Level) and creates hatred, crime, nastiness, and social division. The left must put up a fight on behalf of all people against the neoliberal ideology that has misled us for so long. We must fight for a return to a mixed economy, to market intervention, to wrestling some power back to the people, through trades unions, through better democratic insistence of social rights and obligations and to accountability from our leaders, through better enforcement of the law, through well-funded public legal systems. The alternative is grotesque poverty and injustice, followed by revolutionary impulses in society.
May’s words were well chosen. The Conservative Party’s spin machine is smart. The Conservatives are intent on trying to steal the thunder of the left. They are busy admitting the failures of the system. May is attempting to appeal to the ‘just-about-managing’ so-called JAMs, just as Cameron tried to appeal to ‘hard-working families’. Meanwhile both Prime Ministers adopt policies which continue to push so many of the least well off deeper into abject poverty. The Prime Minister’s words are false promises, dripping with deceit, designed to perpetuate an unfair and unjust system.
To all who pay attention to the facts the false God of neoliberalism is dead and it must be buried once and for all. It did not work out the way the textbooks said it would. Neoliberalism was supposed to work like a genie is a bottle. We could do bad things, like withdraw social support systems, pushing people into poverty, and expect good outcomes to magically appear, like more incentives to work, more jobs, better pay, and greater prosperity for all. Margaret Thatcher may or may not have believed her own Thatcherite rhetoric, but the facts now show, and we all should by now know, that neoliberal reasoning is bad reasoning.
No more excuses behind which we privatise and then run down social services. No more selling off council houses and then see a steep increase in homelessness. No more undermining unions and then see an increase in the economy based on slave labour and slave rates of pay. No more ‘incentivisation’ which just means more outrageously high rewards for the super-rich and beggar-my-neighbour working practices for the rest. No more bleating that the economy rewards success, the cleverest and the most hard-working. No more profiteering from war, dealing cynically with both sides in international disputes, and then offsetting our defense insecurity with more militarism in our own foreign policy. It is all a pack of cynical lies! The magic doesn’t appear. The genie should be put back in the bottle.
What we need is a return to public ownership and a mixed economy, to better social values, properly funded by central and local government. There is no ‘trickle down effect’ to expect from the rampant greed of the unrestrained corporate sector. We need to send out a message to the government that is loud and clear. More of the same is in danger of leading to a backlash of resistance. We need to bring in real change and social justice before it is too late. Revolution is scary, and hurts the poor first and foremost, so I don’t want to advocate it. Lets do better than the logic of history dictates! We should heed May’s warning of a revolt and determine that what is needed is radical change before it is too late.